Image from Twitter (City of San Antonio)

Born: 1922 (Fort Worth)

Died: 2019 (San Antonio)

Noted For: Lila Banks Cockrell was noted as the first woman to serve as mayor of San Antonio, Texas.

In 1975, Lila Cockrell stepped onto the pages of history—twice—when she became the first woman elected as mayor of San Antonio—which at the time made San Antonio the largest U.S. city to be governed by a woman.

The groundbreaking politician went on to win re-election three times consecutively, before stepping down in order to care for her husband, who passed away in 1986. She was back in the game by 1989, when she ran for what would be her fourth and final term. Prior to her mayoral career, Lila served on the San Antonio City Council for a decade, where she was also the city’s first woman mayor Pro Tem.

Lila as a Navy WAVE during World War II. Image from the Rivard Report.

At the time of her death, San Antonio mayor Ron Nirenberg reflected on Lila’s legacy: “I don’t think she gets proper credit for ushering in an era of equal representation. She really did bridge the gap into the single-member district era. There would be no modern San Antonio without her leadership through that transition.” (Quote from the San Antonio Current).

Following her time in the mayor’s office, Lila contributed that same leadership to a number of civic boards and municipal commissions, including the San Antonio Parks Foundation and the Hot Wells Conservancy Board.

In her earlier life, she served as president of both the Dallas and San Antonio chapters of the League of Women Voters, as well as in the United States Naval Reserve (Women’s Reserve), better known as the WAVES.

Shortly before her passing, Lila again made headlines when the four-time mayor was denied a ballot during the 2019 San Antonio mayoral election, due to lack of an authorized form of identification—despite the fact that election officials were well aware of who she was. The incident ignited considerable indignation among San Antonio residents and leaders, many of whom believed that Lila’s situation highlighted the potential for voter discrimination, under current state laws, for voters who lack government-issued identification.

Ultimately, the venerable politician was able to cast her ballot after locating her passport—though it was expired, it was still considered authorized under a provision in the state law that allows elderly voters to present expired documents.

Lila was inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in 1984. She is also the namesake of a theatre at the Henry Henry B. González Convention Center, as well as of a meeting room in the center located directly below the theatre.

Additional Learning: VIDEO: “Voices of Texas Women: Lila Cockrell”—from the San Antonio Public Library